Guess what? It didn't happen again this summer, or at least not yet. There is hope, however, since I have just over a month before school starts. I can get that writing notebook out and start looking at my world through a writer's eyes.
It's not as if I don't have time. I spend plenty of time each day on Facebook and Twitter, I have about fifteen different blogs I follow, I knit, I read, heck, I even play with my kids. What I don't do is allow myself the time and space to sit down with my thoughts and see what I have to discover.
It's not as if I don't enjoy writing. I do. When I do write, whether it is something for school or a letter to a friend or even this blog, I find that the act of putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) helps me crystallize my thoughts and get to the very heart of the issue I'm thinking about. I walk away from the writing feeling lighter and sometimes even smarter.
So why don't I become that writer that I know is hiding there? Am I afraid of what I might uncover if I let myself explore some of those hidden corners of my mind? I'm not sure. I think, perhaps, this is the summer I need to find out.
In her book Writing Workshop: Working Through The Hard Parts (And They're all Hard Parts) (NCTE, 2001), Katie Wood Ray and co-author Lester Laminack discuss the question of whether teachers of writing need to be writers themselves. Once upon a time, I would have said no. That was back in the day when I was giving the kids writing assignments ("Imagine you are a shoe. Write about a day in your life.") that each child would dutifully write (kind of) and turn in (most of the time) and which I would slog through, marking with notes like "frag" and "awk" just like my English teachers had marked my papers about the life of a shoe. As I've grown up as a teacher, though, and read and learned and thought about my practice, I've come to believe strongly that kids need to write about things that are important to them and that I need to teach the writers, not the writing. I need to show kids how writing is important in their lives, not just so they can write a decent cover letter and get a job, but also so that they can work through tough times and celebrate joyous ones. I need to help my students lead writerly lives.
And more and more I'm convinced I need to live a writerly life myself. I need to be able to open my notebook and say to a student, "Look! I was trying that exact same thing this morning. Here's what I discovered." I need to do this hard, messy, sometimes painful work right next to them so they see that I know what I'm talking about.
In that same book, Ray says, "Writing is something you DO, not something you know."
So I guess I'd better go DO.